I found the gifts of resilience, resourcefulness, courage and gratitude as a business owner in a small village in Botswana, where I lived for 20 years before moving to Australia. A village so rural that traffic light lessons were started 3 weeks before the lights were activated, internet was a rare luxury and it was considered normal to carry 40 litres of water to work so that I could run my ablutions and stay hydrated in the sweltering desert climate.
I bought a beautiful business in Australia 4 years ago and have, like many other business owners, had the ongoing challenges of the floods, the fires and the pandemic.
A combination of the aforementioned gifts I brought with me, the desire to remain in Australia and the support that I got from other women in business, are what have enabled me to adapt, pivot and emerge with a stronger business.
The effect of Covid19 on my business has been the loss of around 70% of my original market and huge, and continuing, stock supply issues.
I have clung onto hope and refused to be knocked down by each new challenge. I have chosen rather, to believe that each obstacle is a lesson, or an opportunity. Each new “set back” has made me more determined and forced me to look deeper, to explore new and exciting ideas – to innovate. This has opened some amazing new doors.
My advice here is to believe in yourself and to trust that, as long as you have a service or product that people want or need, there is always another way to get yourself out there. It is not possible to run out of ways to improve and to promote your business. You have to be resilient – keep showing up and keep looking forward.
I analysed every possible problem that I could solve for my potential clients and then set about rebranding - with the focus on providing the solutions. The more I looked, the more solutions I found.
I applied for grants, moved some of my products from the luxury to the essential market, developed new products, redid my website and explored different ways to find and to expand my target market.
The biggest challenge here was trying not to drown in overwhelm. The best advice I got was to break my vision down into small attainable goals and to then to stop and take the time to celebrate each small win.
I wrote a list of 100 ways to improve my brand over a 2-year period and am still wading through it. It takes years to build a brand and I still have to remind myself, often, that it does not all have to be done in one day.
If you want to improve your business, adapt or pivot, the creation of a list is absolutely invaluable . Be resourceful and write down every bazaar idea that floats through your mind – just remember to set a realistic time-frame and pat yourself on the back for every achievement.
It was really scary to change my branding and to launch a new website. Even more intimidating for me was those initial steps required to start changing my brand from “the best kept secret” to a better-known product through the use of different social media platforms and the media outlets.
I still have to build myself up to release a post into the social ether but with a few deep breaths and the knowledge that my product does serve to improve other people’s lives I get through it.
I also stepped into the unknown and put myself through a stringent audit process to gain credibility as an NDIS Provider (National Disability Insurance Scheme).
It is definitely worth it to move out of your comfort zone to explore new opportunities. If you share my fears of the media, just remember that there is always someone out there who wants to hear your story and someone else who will benefit from what you have to share.
I remain so grateful for being in Australia, for my loyal customers and for the fact that I still have a business. By viewing the obstacles as learnings and celebrating those small wins, although very challenging at times, I have managed to stay positive.
I also joined a group of other like-minded businesswomen who offered support, inspiration and honest opinions. Losing the loneliness, sharing the burdens of the effects of the pandemic and trying to help other women in business has really helped me to navigate the challenges over the last year. By sharing our gratitudes and celebrating each other’s wins we have all emerged better as people and more successful in business.
Don’t ever give up, be resourceful, make lots of lists, work through your challenges step by step and stop to admire your work. Find the lessons in your obstacles and failures, be brave and willing to try new and different things and be grateful for as much as you can. And lastly, don’t go at it alone, find or create your own supportive network.